The Champions League is Roberto Firmino’s competition, Darwin Nunez’s talent is there for all to see… and Liverpool’s high-line needs to STOP malfunctioning ahead of Wembley showdown with City – FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED AT ANFIELD
It was a night crammed full of entertainment as a much-changed Liverpool moved into their third Champions League semi-final in five years.
Roberto Firmino was at the double for Liverpool, while Ibrahima Konata also hit the back of the net for Jurgen Klopp’s men at Anfield.
Sportsmail cast an eye over a number of issues to emerge from a thrilling contest.
Roberto Firmino scored twice for Liverpool to help them overcome Benfica at Anfield
There was a time when the first name Jurgen Klopp picked in a European game was Roberto Firmino. In the first 58 Europa League/Champions League matches that Klopp took charge of at Anfield, the Brazilian only missed one.
The evolution of this team means his days as a guaranteed starter have become a thing of the past but Firmino has not been deterred and this, most certainly, has been his competition this season – as he proved again here.
After coming off the bench to score decisive goals against Porto and Inter Milan, he got two here, should really have had a hat-trick and he’s moved his Liverpool total up to 98.
He should reach a century before the end of the season and who would bet against it coming in the semi-finals?
Firmino is now closing in on his 100th goal for Liverpool after his double against Benfica
THE DIFFERENCE IN DIAZ
It is not the statement of the year to say that Luis Diaz has been an outstanding signing for Liverpool but the impact he has made needs some context applying. The Colombia international has been likened, at times, to Luis Suarez and Xabi Alonso for the instant starburst of quality.
With the greatest respect, the Liverpool teams which Alonso (in 2004) and Suarez (in 2011) enlivened could never be described as being among Anfield’s greats. Alonso and Suarez stood out so much because they were genuine world class performers surrounded by many who were not.
The same cannot be said of the squad Klopp has put together. That Diaz is sparkling in a Liverpool team for the ages tells you all you need to know about his quality. He was super again here and it would not be a stretch to say he’s played himself into the FA Cup semi-final starting line-up.
Luis Diaz continued his superb start to Liverpool life with another impressive performance
JURGEN HAS THE KOP SWINGING
You will, at some point, have seen grainy black-and-white footage of The Kop singing Beatles songs in the 1960s and 60 years on that decent local band have provided the soundtrack for a new chant for the manager.
To the tune of ‘I Feel Fine’ the lyrics have been adapted to: “Jurgen said to me, you know, We’ll win the Premier League, you know, he said so!” and they were belted out with great regularity here. It remains to be seen if it comes true.
One thing that can be said with certainty, though, is that there is something fitting that their next European opponents carry the nickname ‘Yellow Submarine’. Klopp will be hoping this latest Magical Mystery Tour is headed all the way to Paris.
The Kop’s new song about manager Jurgen Klopp was given a good airing against Benfica
NEXT STEP FOR NUNEZ
Many eyes will have been fixed on Darwin Nunez, one of the hottest strikers in the Champions League this season and someone whose qualities last week earned a “wow!” from Klopp when he was asked about the Uruguayan’s potential.
He’s been linked with a move to Anfield but the reality is that the 22-year-old won’t be on Liverpool’s radar this summer but the word in Lisbon after the first leg was that Nunez will, in all probability, join a Premier League team, with Newcastle and West Ham likely candidates.
Nunez was put forward to West Ham when he played for Almeria in 2019-20 and they considered moving for him in January again. It’s going to take £50million – at least – for whoever takes the plunge. His quality is there for all to see.
Nunez deserved his goal and might have got a second shortly after when he flashed a volley that Alisson Becker did well to save. He scored six goals in the competition in total, registering against Barcelona, Ajax and Bayern Munich as well as Liverpool.
Darwin Nunez was brilliant again for Benfica, despite his side going out against Liverpool
WALKING THE HIGH WIRE
Nobody can say the high line Liverpool have employed this season has not worked – look the amount of clean sheets they have kept so far – but five goals conceded in the last two matches is something that will vex Klopp.
There can be no malfunctioning at Wembley on Saturday.